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Published: 2005-03-17 00:00:00

Environment Waikato is asking for public comments on its Draft Annual Plan for 2005/2006.

The Draft Plan is open for submissions until May 2 and every household in the Region will receive a summary and a submission form in their EnviroCare magazine in mid April. The draft will be available on from March 30. After hearing submissions the Council will adopt a final Annual Plan in June.

The 2005/06 Annual Plan represents the second year of Environment Waikato’s Long-Term Council Community Plan adopted last June. Unlike the LTCCP, which included programmes to clean up Lake Taupo, protect natural heritage and manage Coromandel rivers, the Draft Annual Plan does not include any major new proposals.

“This very much a ‘steady as she goes’ Plan. The Draft Annual Plan basically confirms what we said when we adopted the LTCCP last year.” Chairman Jenni Vernon said.

The variations mostly reflect re-prioritised work programmes. For example, spending is increased to speed up Council response to a number of pressing environmental issues, including national standards for air quality, changes in land use and the growing intensification of agriculture, which is putting the Region’s water quality at risk.

The budget also accommodates additional bus services for parts of the Region, such as in Taupo, Tokoroa, Mangakino, and the ‘Night Rider’ service in Hamilton. Most of these costs will be paid by Land Transport New Zealand.

Hamilton Councillor David Peart, who is Deputy Chair of the Corporate Services Committee, said that Hamilton’s transport rate would not increase under this budget.

“We’ve done a good job taking advantage of the opportunities Government grants provide to improve transport services,” he said.

The Draft Plan also addresses additional responsibilities given to Regional Councils by Central Government, including providing for the safety of the Region’s dams.

The Council’s Draft Annual Plan was outlined at this week’s Corporate Services Committee meeting. It proposes a $13 - $23 rate increase for most ratepayers. This rate increase is $2 - $5 more than had been forecast in the LTCCP.

The median Environment Waikato rates bill is $150 and most ratepayers pay less than $350. Rate increases will be larger in Taupo and Otorohanga where property re-valuations have been done recently.

Overall, the Council is proposing to increase operating expenditure from $59.3 million this year to $66.9 million. Total revenue forecast is $69 million, up from $61.4 million, of which $43.8 million comes from rates. The $9 rate paid by all ratepayers to protect Lake Taupo doubles, but many other rates will not increase.

The Uniform Annual General Charge remains at $36 per property, and other separate rates – Passenger Transport for Hamilton residents, Biosecurity rate for rural people, Pest and Weed rate for urban residents and the Natural Heritage rate – have not changed.

Cr Vernon said the Council is also consulting on three proposals to create Council-controlled organisations, one to set up a trust to administer the Protect Lake Taupo fund, one to promote shared services, such as a valuation database, among councils and another to manage animal pest control operations in the Region and elsewhere. Submissions can be made as part of the Annual Plan process.